Saturday, March 12, 2011

Felted Soap

I've always wanted to be one of those people who could find the one thing in life they are really passionate about, then work really hard to master their craft and excel in their field. Unfortunately, I lack that type of focus and I am quickly distracted by shiny objects and new challenges. Not just in crafts, but in all aspects of life. Even when doing chores around the house, I often leave things half done as I move onto the next task that catches my eye. Eventually, I finish all that I started, but if someone were to stop by while I'm "cleaning" they'd have a hard time determining whether I'm actually putting things away or pulling things apart.

Anyway, the point is...I like to keep busy and having a variety of things to do keeps me interested. In addition to soap making, one of my many  interests is fiber arts. I love knitting, weaving, spinning yarn and... you guessed it... felting! It is funny though... I have been watching fiber artists felt soap long before I ever knew how to make a bar of soap, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to try my hand at it. I have PLENTY of wool sitting around and a fair amount of ugly soap to boot. It seemed like a match made in heaven. But as the saying goes... jack of all trades, master of none... What a disaster!

I started out thinking it would make a great tutorial for this blog, but about 30 minutes into felting, I realized that I had made one major rookie mistake. At that point, I quickly abandoned the project and decided that I should leave the teaching to the pros! BUT, I decided to share my rookie mistake, which is a well known rule among fiber artists, but rarely mentioned on the soap blogs. Ready? Here it is:


What is super wash? Have you ever had a wool sweater that advertises that it can be washed without shrinking? THAT is super wash and because it doesn't shrink... it doesn't felt. Normally, I would never use super wash wool for anything because of the extra processing and treating it undergoes, but when I was learning to spin yarn, I bought whatever wool was cheapest...and I never labeled the bags. So there's lesson #2: label everything! Had I labeled everything, I could have gone back, grabbed some NON-super wash wool and created a useful tutorial. Instead, here is a link to somebody else's great tutorial :)

If you get the right wool, felting really is fun! And it is a great way to hide your less than perfect soaps!

One thing to keep in mind, if you are concerned about chemicals and/or your ecological impact, is that when it comes to wool, natural dyes are not necessarily a better/safer choice than synthetic. In the dying process, natural dyes are usually anchored by mordants. The type of mordant varies depending on the color used, but typically mordants are powdered metals or metallic salts and can be toxic (though not necessarily). But, if you want to play it safe and reduce your exposure to unnecessary toxins, I would simply use natural undyed, wool, which is available in many colors from white to beige, brown, grey and black... plus, you can rest easy knowing the color will never wash off in the shower!

Happy felting!